By accident, I became aware of a trending hashtag on German Twitter today. For reasons of not directing any attention towards it, I’m not going to link to or even mention it. With this hashtag, a bunch of people proclaim themselves to be some kind of successful resistance against the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
While reading through a list of tweets, it struck me that the style of messaging is eerily similar between them. There’s little variation. Most of the time it’s a display of somehow being “proud” to have resisted, despite allegedly having been punished, isolated, belittled and hated on for their refusal to “conform”. This is often followed by calls to similar-minded people to persevere.
There appears to be little or no self-reflection of any kind. I suspect Twitter to probably be the entirely wrong medium for that. Still, all personal discussions I’ve been involved in and longer pieces I have read that are written by unvaccinated people share certain characteristics. Predominant is the aggressive and confrontational style. It does not invite a discussion but rather wants to make a point. More often than not, you’re confronted with a flood of information or attitude — or both. The sender of the message expects instant resistance and will double down even before any occurs. The sender often perceives either their information or by extension themselves to be superior to the recipient, having thought through the “available evidence” for themselves, arriving at their own conclusions, supposedly not following the official narrative. The recipient is often styled as being “sheep”, unable or unwilling to consider the supposedly clear evidence if they do not immediately agree.
There’s a certainty to the messaging that I myself would never claim to have with regard to anything other than my core personal beliefs. Factual information about vaccines does not enter this category. I don’t know enough about the underlying medical and biological complexities. I trust professionals in their respective fields to provide relevant information, ideally actionable recommendations. Administrative incompetence and political turf wars do not change that. I know that the sceptics do the same, they just seek out other sources. Sources which are more attuned to their expectations. Arguing against the validity of information either way leads nowhere, as each side can just dismiss any conflicting information.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, I have struggled to understand the refusal to wear masks, to socially distance and to get vaccinated. After reading the tweets, I believe I am a step closer to an explanation. It boils down to a question of principle and an illusion of exerting control in an uncertain situation.
The world is getting ever more complicated. Rules, certainties, reliability have all eroded, and continue to. Organized religion fails an increasing amount of people, offers less guidance and even less answers. Elites have amassed absurd wealth at the cost of everyone else. They now plan for the eventual collapse they themselves speed up through relentless exploitation — and they exhibit no intention to stop. Basic societal conventions turn out to be flexible constructs as opposed to being immutable values. Decades of turbo-charged capitalism has drilled individualist values into us.
No wonder all this is too much. Just see my post about when I stopped consuming daily news as a defense mechanism, I’m not that different.
As a result, I believe people turn to cynicism and gut feelings, relying more on themselves and “common sense” than the group or community. There’s a prepper mentality component in there. More people expect to be lied to and manipulated, because more often than not that’s indeed what happens.
What we’re seeing here is a population overwhelmed by its own inertia. When you question everything, you believe in nothing. There’s an instinctive realization that things cannot continues as they are. However, there are no conclusive answers, no visible path forward, no vision. Leadership fails because they are still playing the political games of days past. We’re entering an era of recession and respond by repeating the narrative of growth. Growth doesn’t work any longer, nor should it. We have to deal with an unprecedented environmental catastrophe and its fallout that requires a fundamentally different approach to basically everything.
It’s all too easy to look for easy answers that are supposedly rooted in common sense, to generate an impression of basic control over things. In reality no one has all that much. Those that do have the most, are unwilling — for selfish or strategic reasons. We’ve created runaway effects we feel powerless to stop because we don’t want to give our antagonists/enemies a leg up if we do. It’s a gigantic and depressing game of chicken.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. I believe those to be the first signals of an impending fight for the future of societal direction and cohesion. How this turns out may well define the next century.